Oregon oyster farms rise

| Print |  Email
Articles - October 2013
Monday, September 30, 2013

BY HANNAH WALLACE

1013 FOB OysterCultivating Profit. Oyster farming is a tricky business — you can’t wantonly meet demand or you won’t have any oysters left to sell. And you’re reliant on the health of the oceans, which have been acidifying in recent years, making it hard for oyster larvae to mature. Yet Oregon Oyster Farms co-owner Xin Liu is striking a balance between conservation and profit. Over the past 16 years, he has grown revenue from $700,000 annually to $1.6 million. The company had just nine employees when Liu and two partners bought it from Newport Pacific in 1997. Today his staff numbers 25, including shuckers, packers, drivers, field crew and retail workers.

Clamoring for more. Liu, who sold a few million oysters last year, all from his 500-acre site on Yaquina Bay, is in the enviable position of having more domestic demand than he can supply, even as demand surges from Asia. In addition to supplying Oregon restaurants, he has a standing order from New York City’s Grand Central Oyster Bar for Kumamoto and Pacific oysters. About 10-15% of his oyster harvest is flown to Taiwan and China. Yet Liu has had to turn down eager buyers from Hong Kong and San Francisco, who have been awaiting his oysters for years. “Hong Kong keeps bugging me,” Liu says. “But I don’t have enough to sell to Hong Kong.”

Consider the Oyster Bed. Last fall Liu and Mark Wiegardt from Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery purchased Pearl Point Oyster Company, which included a 72-acre oyster bed in Netarts Bay. “Netarts Bay is one of the cleanest bays on the West Coast,” says Liu. “It produces very good briny oysters.” There they plan to grow smaller-size Kumamoto and Pacific oysters; larger ones will be harvested in Yaquina Bay. Liu calls these 7- to 10-inch oysters, which can take as long as seven years to grow and command top dollar in China, “oyster steaks.” Though he won’t know for another 18 months what the growth rate and density is like in Netarts Bay, Liu hopes to have enough oysters to start selling to San Francisco restaurants — and perhaps a few lucky Hong Kong buyers — by next summer.

Conservation beckons. In addition to the Pacific and the Kumamoto, Liu grows the recently reintroduced Olympias — “Olys” — which are native to the West Coast. Prized for their diminutive size and tangy flavor, Olys were overharvested and nearly wiped out a century ago. Recently Liu started working with the Wetlands Conservancy, the Nature Conservancy and local Siletz tribes to ramp up restoration efforts in Yaquina Bay. “It’s really hard to get this population back,” says Liu, noting it takes Olys two and a half to three years to grow to the size of a half-dollar coin. Despite their cult-like popularity, Liu only sells Olys in limited quantities — five to 10 dozen a week. A model of restraint, Xin Liu aims to show that running a profitable shellfish farm is not mutually exclusive with managing the ocean’s resources responsibly.

 

Comments   

 
Guest
-2 #1 InefficiencyGuest 2013-10-02 06:43:58
500 acres of beds and only $1.6M annual revenue? This is a perfect example of how the oyster industry is literally stuck in the stone age. He could be doing those numbers with 10 acres and 5 guys if they knew anything at all about aquaculture technology. So disappointing to hear stories like this.
Quote | Report to administrator
 

More Articles

Apartment Mania

Guest Blog
Thursday, June 18, 2015
4805983977 11466ce1d6 zBY BRAD HOULE | CFA

While most categories of commercial real estate have performed well, one of the most robust has been apartment buildings.


Read more...

Change at the pump?

The Latest
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
001thumbBY JASON E. KAPLAN | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

New Jersey and Oregon are the only two states in the U.S. that ban self serve gas stations. But these two holdouts may be ready to give up the game. New Jersey is considering legislation that would lift the state's ban on pumping your own gas. Oregon is considering smaller scale changes.


Read more...

An uncertain future

Guest Blog
Thursday, May 21, 2015
norristhumbBY JASON NORRIS | GUEST BLOGGER

Uncertainty is a part of doing business, whether in through the lens of investment opportunities and risks or the business of running an enterprise.


Read more...

Modern design defines new Portland indoor market

The Latest
Thursday, June 25, 2015
thumbSnøhetta JBPM exterior www mir noBY KIM MOORE | RESEARCH EDITOR

An international architecture firm known for its design of the National September 11 Memorial Museum Pavilion in New York unveiled its plan this week for a modern indoor/outdoor food market at the foot of the Morrison Bridge in downtown Portland.


Read more...

5 things to know about veterans in the workforce

The Latest
Wednesday, July 01, 2015
070215-vetsthumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

There are more than 10 million former military members working in the United States.


Read more...

Fixing Oregon’s broken roads

The Latest
Tuesday, June 09, 2015
RUCCostComparison rev4-30BY KIM MOORE | RESEARCH EDITOR

The technology at the center of Oregon’s road usage fee reform.


Read more...

Efficiency Boost

June 2015
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY JOE CORTRIGHT

How conservation stimulates the local economy.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS